Stopping Apoquel Suddenly: What You Need to Know

Apoquel (oclacitinib) is a medication commonly prescribed to alleviate itching in dogs caused by allergies, dermatitis, and other skin conditions. However, discontinuing its use suddenly has raised concerns among pet owners. This article delves into what happens when you stop Apoquel abruptly and the potential side effects associated with it.

Why is Apoquel Prescribed?

Apoquel is specifically designed to target and inhibit specific enzymes involved in the itch cycle of dogs. When a dog itches due to allergies or other conditions, it sets off a cycle of inflammation and more itching. Apoquel acts to break this cycle, providing relief for the pet.

The Rebound Phenomenon

A major concern with suddenly discontinuing Apoquel is the potential for a “rebound phenomenon.” This occurs when symptoms return with heightened intensity after stopping a medication.

Key Takeaways:

  • Stopping Apoquel suddenly can lead to an immediate return of itching, sometimes more intense than before starting the medication.
  • The rebound itching isn’t due to a worsening of the underlying condition, but rather a sudden withdrawal of the symptom-suppressing effects of Apoquel.

Side Effects of Stopping Suddenly

Apart from the rebound itching, there aren’t many documented side effects specific to abruptly discontinuing Apoquel. However, any change in a pet’s medication should be approached with caution and in consultation with a veterinarian.

Tapering off Apoquel

To mitigate the risks associated with stopping Apoquel, veterinarians often recommend a gradual tapering off. This allows the dog’s body to adjust to the reduced dosage over time and minimizes the chances of experiencing the rebound effect.

Key Takeaways:

  • Reducing the dose slowly can prevent sudden resurgence of symptoms.
  • Always consult with your vet before making any changes to your pet’s medication.

Natural Alternatives to Apoquel

For those looking for a more natural approach to address their dog’s itching:

1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Beyond the Basics

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that possess potent anti-inflammatory properties.

How they work: These fatty acids can inhibit the production of inflammatory eicosanoids and cytokines, which are often triggered in allergic reactions.

Best sources:

  • Wild-caught fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines.
  • Flaxseeds and chia seeds for plant-based sources.

Administration: Ideally, provide through a balanced diet, but supplements are available. Consult with a veterinarian for appropriate dosages.

2. Quercetin: Nature’s Antihistamine

Quercetin is a flavonoid found in many fruits and vegetables.

How it works: Quercetin stabilizes the cells that release histamine in the body, effectively reducing allergic reactions.

Best sources:

  • Apples (without the seeds)
  • Blueberries
  • Kale
  • Broccoli

Administration: While incorporating these foods into a dog’s diet can be beneficial, quercetin supplements designed for dogs can provide a more concentrated dose. Always ensure the appropriate dose with guidance from a veterinarian.

3. Oat Baths: Soothing and Nourishing

Oats have been used for centuries to calm irritated skin.

How they work: Oats contain avenanthramides, compounds known to reduce inflammation and itching. When oats are immersed in water, they release a milky liquid known as oat colloidal. This substance soothes and hydrates the skin.


  • Blend or grind whole, unflavored oats to create a fine powder.
  • Dissolve the oat powder in warm bathwater.
  • Allow your dog to soak in the oat bath for about 10-15 minutes.

4. Coconut Oil: More Than Just Moisturizing

Coconut oil has made a name for itself in both human and pet wellness circles.

How it works: Comprising medium-chain fatty acids, especially lauric acid, coconut oil can combat harmful bacteria and reduce skin inflammation. Its moisturizing properties also help alleviate dryness and itching.


  • Topical: Gently massage the oil into the affected areas on your dog’s skin.
  • Dietary: Add a small amount to your dog’s food. However, ensure the quantity aligns with your dog’s weight and dietary needs.

5. Aloe Vera: A Natural Soothing Gel

This succulent plant has been a staple in natural skin care for ages.

How it works: Aloe vera gel contains compounds like glycoproteins and polysaccharides which reduce inflammation and accelerate healing.


  • Extract fresh gel from an aloe vera leaf and apply it directly to the itchy or inflamed areas.
  • Avoid store-bought aloe with additives or alcohol, as these can further irritate the skin.

6. Calendula: The Flower that Heals

Calendula, often referred to as marigold, is renowned for its skin-healing properties.

How it works: Rich in flavonoids and saponins, calendula promotes skin healing, reduces inflammation, and combats harmful microbes.


  • Calendula creams and ointments are available, but ensure they don’t contain harmful additives.
  • Calendula-infused oil can also be massaged into the skin for relief.

Final Thoughts

While Apoquel has proven effective for many dogs with itching problems, it’s essential to be aware of the potential effects of stopping its use suddenly. Always prioritize communication with your veterinarian about any medication changes or concerns. With careful management and a keen understanding, you can ensure your furry friend remains happy, healthy, and itch-free.

FAQs on Stopping Apoquel Suddenly

Q: How long does Apoquel stay in a dog’s system?

A: Apoquel is metabolized relatively quickly in a dog’s system. The majority of the drug is eliminated within 24 hours after administration. However, its anti-itching effects can last longer due to its influence on the itching pathway.

Q: If I miss a dose of Apoquel for my dog, what should I do?

A: If you forget a dose, give it as soon as you remember. If it’s close to the time of the next dose, skip the missed one and resume the regular schedule. Avoid doubling up doses, as this can increase the risk of side effects.

Q: Can I combine Apoquel with other medications or supplements?

A: Many dogs on Apoquel also receive other medications or supplements. While Apoquel is known to have a relatively safe profile when combined with many other drugs, always consult your veterinarian before introducing any new medication or supplement to ensure there are no harmful interactions.

Q: Are there long-term effects of using Apoquel?

A: Studies have shown that Apoquel is safe for long-term use in most dogs. However, like any medication, there’s a potential for side effects. Regular check-ups with a veterinarian can help monitor your dog’s liver and kidney functions to ensure the medication isn’t causing any adverse effects.

Q: Can Apoquel cause behavioral changes in dogs?

A: Some pet owners have reported behavioral changes in their dogs after starting Apoquel, although these cases are rare. It’s essential to monitor your pet for any signs of altered behavior or mood and report these to your veterinarian. It may be necessary to adjust the dosage or seek an alternative treatment.

Q: Can a dog build resistance to Apoquel?

A: While it’s uncommon, some dogs might experience reduced efficacy over time. This is not necessarily a “resistance” but can be due to the progression of the underlying allergy or skin condition. If you notice Apoquel isn’t as effective as it once was, it’s crucial to consult your vet.

Q: Is there an ideal time of day to administer Apoquel?

A: Apoquel can be given at any time of day. What’s important is to administer it approximately at the same time every day to maintain consistent drug levels in your dog’s system. If your dog seems itchier at a particular time of day, you might choose to administer it an hour or so before that time.

Q: Are there any dietary considerations when my dog is on Apoquel?

A: There aren’t specific dietary restrictions related to Apoquel. However, since many itchy conditions in dogs relate to allergies, it’s essential to provide a balanced, hypoallergenic diet if your dog has food sensitivities. A diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids can also complement Apoquel’s effects.

Q: Are there withdrawal symptoms when discontinuing Apoquel?

A: While Apoquel doesn’t typically cause withdrawal symptoms in the traditional sense, sudden cessation might lead to a resurgence of itching. This “rebound itching” can be more intense than before starting the medication, and it’s crucial to discuss a gradual weaning plan with your vet.

Q: What are some natural alternatives to Apoquel?

A: While Apoquel is effective for many dogs, some owners seek natural alternatives. Options may include:

  • Topical Oatmeal Baths: Known for soothing inflamed skin.
  • Fish Oil Supplements: Rich in Omega-3s, they can help reduce inflammation.
  • Quercetin: A natural antihistamine found in many fruits and vegetables.

It’s essential to consult with a vet before trying natural remedies to ensure they’re safe and suitable for your pet.

Q: How does Apoquel compare to steroids?

A: Both Apoquel and steroids (like prednisone) reduce itching and inflammation. However, Apoquel targets specific cytokines related to itching without affecting other immune responses, making it a more selective option. Steroids, while effective, have a broader range of action and potential side effects, especially with long-term use.

Q: Can I reintroduce Apoquel after a break?

A: Yes, if your dog responded well to Apoquel in the past, you can reintroduce it under your vet’s guidance. However, remember to monitor for any changes or reactions, as every reintroduction can be unique.

Q: How should I store Apoquel tablets?

A: Apoquel should be stored in its original container, protected from light. Keep it in a cool, dry place at room temperature, away from extreme heat or cold. Ensure it’s out of reach of children and pets.

Q: How do I handle potential side effects?

A: If you notice side effects such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or any other unusual behavior, it’s essential to consult your vet immediately. They can guide you on whether to adjust the dose, discontinue the medication, or seek an alternative treatment.

Q: Can pregnant or lactating dogs take Apoquel?

A: The safety of Apoquel in pregnant, breeding, or lactating dogs has not been evaluated. If your dog falls into any of these categories, discuss with your vet to weigh the risks and benefits.

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